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Five Band Shirts You Can Wear to Literally Every Show

Because you are what you wear.
September 22, 2017, 6:30am
All illustrations by Dini Lestari

There's an old cliche in Indonesia that the true measure of a man's life is harta, tahta, wanita, which roughly translates to "wealth, throne, and women." It's pretty sexist, and terribly cliched. We live in a more complicated world today, one where the "three things" depends entirely on context.

Take the music scene for example. There's still wealth, or the inevitable temptation to sell out, and the throne, the feeling that your own band is the best ever, but then there's something different… there's T-shirts.

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So the first two parts aren't all that dangerous. The first one only applies to the people in the band and the second is only an issue if you think of the indie scene as some great big Battle of the Bands—which it isn't.

But the third part—the shirts—are expensive. Collecting band T-shirts itself is a noble thing because it helps local bands make some money. But it's also some sort of ritual, a way to signal to everyone else in the room that you are into some good shit, and you, therefore, belong. It's also full of pitfalls. Wearing the wrong shirt to a show can be really embarrassing.

But the problem here is that these shirts are getting expensive. The local ones now cost around Rp 150,000 ($11 USD). Not to mention, in order not to feel out of place, we all need to match our T-shirts with the "genre" of the show. So we need a whole closet of these T-shirts, even though as Millennials, we earn the less money than our older peers. Luckily, we found a solution: just buy some universal and versatile band T-shirts, so you only need to own three of them. You can wear them to Rossi, Safehouse, Ruru! Here's a list of the perfect wardrobe, along with each shirt's pros and cons. I deliberately leave out some obvious ones, like Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures T-shirt and their Arabic or Japanese versions, the Goo T-shirt and all its variations, and New Order's Substance T-shirts in black and white because their moments have simply passed.

Sleep - Dopesmoker, Electric Wizard in purple, and/or Sunn O))) in any color
You can spot these T-shirts in any music event. It's not that a lot people wear these shirts, it's just that bassist of Dental Surf Combat is always wearing one of them. At first I didn't notice, but after always seeing her in one of these T-shirts, I decided to use her style choices as role model. Now, thanks to her, I know that anyone can wear these shorts to parties—since they're not as tacky as other metal bands' shirts with their totally illegible logos. Pro: Your friends will know that you're a stoner, but your parents and the police will be none the wiser. That's why wearing these shirts are a way better alternative to a "4:20" arm tattoo. Con: People might think you're a metal hipster.

Portishead - Dummy
The neutral design is what makes this shirt so versatile. And who doesn't like Portishead? Since Velvet Underground & Nico are way too common, Dummy might be the only shirt that falls into the category of "versatile" that is worn by people who actually like the music. Pro: Assuming that everyone wearing a Portishead T-shirt is a genuine fan of the band, people would think you're "real." Con: People might think you're insecure because you don't have the guts to wear the "P" shirt.

Slowdive - Souvlaki, or just one with "Slowdive" on it
This shirt suggests that the person wearing it has passed their "ethereal" music phase. According to a friend who once lived in Bandung, 90 percent of Lelaki Skena Setempat, or "guys from the local music scene," have at least worn this shirt at least once. Pro: The shirt is a conversational piece. You will get questions like, "What do you think of the latest Slowdive album?" And if you don't actually listen to Slowdive, no worries. Just say that Souvlaki will always be the best. They'll get it. Con: People might think you're a newbie in the shoegaze scene.

Homicide - any design
This may sound less anarchist compared to the messages Homicide tries to convey, but the shirts of this hyper-political Bandung band are the king of kings among band shirts. Owning one will make you feel more superior than "common" show-goers. Moreover, owning at least one Homicide T-shirt suggests that you're deft (since Homicide T-shirts are quickly sold out), that you're dedicated (the older ones are expensive as hell), and aware of current socio-political situation (they are produced as a part of political agitation). Pro: You can also wear these shirts to political discussions or protests. So practical. Con: It's September now, so don't wear Homicide T-shirt with the sickle and microphone graphic on it, or you might just start an anti-communist riot. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Melancholic Bitch - the latest design
Be grateful that now Melbi is back. We heard the album is so great and the concept is just brilliant! But, that's a whole lot different conversation. Wearing their T-shirts will make you look like someone who listens to "good music" and understands "literature." This is important, especially now that local musicians are starting to write their lyrics in Indonesian (even though sometimes it's just a line of the most uncommon vocabulary they could find). Since Melbi is seen as a band with "deep lyrics," you can wear this shirt practically anywhere, because great lyrics are key. Pro: You can wear this shirt to a book talk or to hang out in Reading Room or Coffeewar. Con: I don't think this shirt is already on the market. And later when it's out, people might ask you, "So you read Eka Kurniawan, too?"

Honorable Mention

Satan's School for Girls
You can wear this shirt not only to music gigs, but also to Ramadhan events and family gatherings thanks to the heart shape. People often aren't aware that it says "Satan." across your chest. Naudzubillahiminzalik.

Suaradisko
This shirt is usually worn by show organizers. Considering that fact, we believe that those organizers must have lots of friends. Besides suggesting that you can dance, the shirt also shows that you're loyal AF.

"Pemerintah Kontol" ("The government is a dick") T-shirts
The shirt by Amenkcoy has a lot to give: 1) When you wear it, people might think you like Raymond Pettibon's work—and Black Flag, 2) People might think you understand contemporary art, and 3) You wouldn't feel out of place if you wear the T-shirt to a Sungsang Lebam Telak show, since the their titles aren't so different from Amenkcoy poems.